THE 75-man ad hoc panel tasked to scrutinize the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) reset the vote it was supposed to take on Monday and decided to open to public the session on proposed amendments and the actual voting on the measure today.
The vote was originally scheduled to be taken at 4 p.m. Monday, but Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the panel chairman, said it had to be re-scheduled because the panel still has to make way for individual amendments to the measure.
Rodriguez also shot down earlier proposals to hold secret voting on the measure even as hundreds of supporters of the BBL gathered at the gate of the House of Representatives to pressure lawmakers to pass the controversial measure.
Each member of the panel is allowed to introduce amendments to House Bill No. 4994 provision by provision of the 101-page bill.
The leader of the independent minority bloc, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, welcomed the open voting process for the sake of transparency.
“We should allow the public to witness the crucial voting for this very controversial peace of legislation,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez earlier warned that conducting the BBL voting behind closed doors, as some lawmakers proposed, would create uncertainties and further erode public support to the measure.
Rodriguez said his panel vowed to pass the measure with amendments.
“We will pass a BBL measure that is acceptable to all parties concerned,” he said.
He added he is optimistic that the BBL will pass in Congress “without the questionable provisions.” “It is our best shot at peace in Mindanao, and everyone of us is for bringing peace and development to Mindanao,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s panel is expected to have the bill approved by Wednesday. House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. and House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II attended the session of the ad hoc panel Monday to observe the proceedigs.
Rodriguez had earlier vowed to excise from the measure the controversial provisions such as those on national defense and security; the provisions on public order and safety; establishment of the Bangsamoro Police; powers of the Chief Minister on the Bangsamoro Police; and the operation of the Armed Forces in the Bangsamoro area and on the normalization and decommissioning agreement.
Rodriguez said his panel would not dilute the power of the Philippine National Police over the Bangsamoro territory and would remove the BBL provision allowing the latter’s internal police to be the primary party responsible for the public peace and order.
Malacanang expressed hope that the House ad hoc panel would vote for peace.
“The welfare of our brothers and sisters in Mindanao has always been part of the administration’s agenda of inclusive growth. This commitment is embodied in the different programs of our agencies and in the President’s various activities,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles also called on legislators to fulfill their historic role in bringing good governance, peace, prosperity and security in Mindanao through the passage of the BBL.
“The Philippines is faced with the historic opportunity to finally fulfill the constitutional mandate and promise of true autonomy; bring to an end four decades of violent conflict in Mindanao; install and strengthen democratic institutions to overcome deprivation and lawlessness; and collectively embrace and celebrate the richness of our multiple identities, cultures, and narratives,” Deles said in a statement.
Deles pointed out that fulfilling the promise for a genuine autonomy in the Bangsamoro is an opportunity given to the members of the House in their lifetime.
“I hope and pray that our legislators will wholeheartedly claim—and not deny nor squander—their key role in fulfilling this opportunity that may not come again within our lifetime,” the peace adviser said.
Deles also emphasized that the constituencies in the Bangsamoro need a law that will embody their best hopes for the future of their children.
“We need a BBL that will embody our best hopes and not give in to our worst fears. In the coming vote on the BBL, please let the children be the focus of attention and concern—their lives, their future—the children of Mamasapano equally with the children of Metro Manila,” Deles said. – With Sandy Araneta
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